Ironically, I first heard about this strange tale on a bike blog post, from one of dozens of blogs I follow via rss. And I am a bike rider, well, a street bike rider. The Parks and Recreation Department was allowing a mountain bike trail in Cheasty Greenspace, a natural area of Seattle Parks. I did a little digging and became very upset that this was actually happening, and that I had only just found out about it. How could this be?
Cheasty Greenspace or Cheasty Mountain Bike Park, that’s the question.
I thought back to the summer of 2012 when the Parks Department tried to put a commercial zipline in Lincoln Park. That one was stopped by a huge community backlash. But this mountain bike trail… it seemed that the only people aware of it were those in the biking community, and they were very excited. The similarities between the zipline fiasco and the mountain biking proposal seemed eerily striking: Parks had worked for quite a while quietly with the backers of both proposals, before the public became aware of what was happening – and the public was not in favor of either – and the Parks Department wanted both. Hmmm.
Right now the general public is just starting to find out about the mountain biking proposal. A few people talked about it quietly, did research, got a tip, and pretty soon an ad was run in the Seattle Times, in opposition to the mountain bike proposal:
Amazingly, the people right around Cheasty Greenspace were some of the last to find out. Thanks to the ad, the community is alive and fighting back, organizing, planning, researching – to preserve their urban forest sanctuary:
Turning a natural area into a mountain bike park in the middle of Seattle is unforgivable. Once that forest is torn up, it will take generations for it to return to a natural state. There are precious few undeveloped areas in Seattle Parks – actually, only 14% of its park space is undeveloped. It is so incredibly important to maintain the little natural space we have, and we must do whatever we can to keep it for the enjoyment of ALL the citizens of Seattle, not just the special interest groups that serve a fraction of the population – in the case of the sport of mountain biking, we are usually talking about affluent, white males. There are exceptions of course, but the fact remains that the vast majority of the population will not be able to use this space as a place to get away from it all, and experience a native wild habitat. It will be gone.
The people behind the mountain bike park have been quietly working on it for three years. They have worked carefully, and they have cultivated a good relationship with some of the staff of the Seattle Parks Department. In fact, the Parks Department itself was the one pushing this through the approval process before the Seattle Parks Board. One of the most startling aspects of the proposal is that the Parks Department has a policy of no bikes in its parks (with a few small exceptions). The Parks Board twice turned down this Mountain Bike Park proposal based on that policy. Two months later, the Parks Department came again to the Parks Board, and asked for the Bike Park to be approved as a pilot – meaning it would be exempt from city policy. Incredibly, the Parks Board approved it.
One has to wonder why we have rules and policies at all, if they can be overridden at any time by a pilot from a special interest group. What would stop the development of something like a pilot “Family Fun Old Growth Zipline in Schmitz Park”, for instance?
Here’s a link to what the Parks Department has to say about the project. Please note the March 25th meeting. It is the FIRST public meeting on the Mountain Bike Park. Trail construction is scheduled to start within a week of the meeting. If you care, be there.
Take a look at this wild picture below. Some would call this an overgrown waste of space, filled with invasive species. Others would look more closely and see native ferns, mahonia, salal, and a host of critters underneath it all, living their lives in an undisturbed peace, in the middle of a big city.
We need to preserve this space for all those living things, so that generations of people can visit, enjoy, and be refreshed by being in their midst.
To learn more about the efforts to stop the Mountain Bike Park proposal, read what others have said, written, and cited, below:
- Maintain foot traffic only policy within Cheasty Greenspace – a petition
- Seattle Urban Forestry Position Paper on Cheasty Greenspace Mountain Bike Trail Pilot Project – Draft 3-11-14 – pdf
- Draft Meeting Notes, Seattle Urban Forestry Commission Meeting 3-5-14 (pp.8-15) – pdf
- Cheasty GreenspaceVegetation Management Plan – pdf (121 pages)